Buzz Kill

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By now, if you follow the technology world at all, or if you use Gmail, you’ve probably noticed a new thingy released by Google in the last few days. The thingy is called Google Buzz and it is billed to be a “status update” tool to allow your friends to know what you’re up to?

Sound familiar? Yeah, it’s supposed to be going after Twitter or some nonsense like that.

I enabled Buzz on my Gmail account and then promptly disabled it (you too can disable it, if it’s already turned on for you, by clicking on the “turn off Buzz” link in the footer of your Gmail account).

I’m going on record today to say that Google Buzz is and will continue to be an absolute failure. The reasons why are fourfold…

No one cares about the Google community

This thing is all about tying the Google community together, though they do have support for Twitter and Flickr as well because, well… no one can ignore those massive communities and have legs for the long run. People care about the YouTube community (a Google property). To a lesser extent, people care about the Blogger community (a Google property). No one cares about the Gmail community. It’s email!!! It’s not about community, it’s about utility and communication. Not community. I get spam in my Gmail. I get business conversations in my email. I get a searchable index of messages sent back and forth over the last five years in my Gmail. I don’t get community in my Gmail. The only community feature in Gmail is Google Talk and I don’t use that in Gmail. I use it in an IM client (Adium).

Google is too spread out to worry about community. They have products to meet needs and diversify web experiences, but their forays into community have sucked. Badly. Last time Google’s OpenSocial was a factor in the collaborative, community space was… oh, well, never. That’s dominated by Facebook. Not Google. Last time Picasa was an actual factor in the photography community was… oh that’s right… never. That’s controlled by Flickr.

And the next time Google tries to be a player in the “status update” community will be… oh, that’s right, never. That’s because Twitter dominates. Just ask Identi.ca. Oh, and Facebook.

Friendfeed is still something small and irrelevant

Why do I bring up Friendfeed? Well, my argument against Friendfeed still exists. Even Louis Gray, one of the biggest historical champions of Friendfeed, acknowledges that it remains a small community. It never has and never will go mainstream. So why has Google essentially ripped Friendfeed off and expect different results?

Comment? Like? Sounds familiar…. Oh, Facebook and Friendfeed do that.

Buzz is insecure

It’s well documented at this point that Buzz is actually pretty insecure. Because it operates out of Gmail, it assumes that your most frequently emailed people should automatically be friends. Except that that assumption is inherently insecure because friends are publicly viewable. Take these hypothetical situations for instance:

  • Bill has been corresponding with a major possible client under NDA. For any number of reasons, the communication should not be revealed to the public. Yet, due to the volume of email between Bill and his contact, his contact is automatically made a Buzz contact.
  • Kelly is negotiating an acquisition of a company. If this information were public, the deal could be off.
  • John is trying to take his wife on a big, secret getaway for her 40th birthday. In emailing with a variety of resorts over the period of several weeks, those resort contacts become part of John’s publicly viewable community.

Are we seeing the problem here? This is like Facebook Beacon all over again.

Why add more workflow and more social networks?

The argument has been made in favor of Buzz that Google has a huge Gmail userbase to jump off of. While this is true, this is one more area of workflow for users to utilize. Why do it? We have YouTube and Flickr and Twitter and Facebook? Do we really anticipate Buzz being added to the repertoire? I think not.

Buzz will have the same result as most other social networks: it will die. Very few have legs because very few are innovative and do new things. Twitter was an accidental success because it innovated on the concept of microcontent over SMS… yes, that’s how it started. Buzz is just one more has been and offers nothing new. It will stay in the bowels of early adopter-hood until it is forgotten.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Update: VentureBeat reports that Google has tweaked their privacy settings.

Facebook Business & Marketing Solutions – Kent Schoen, Facebook

9:53 AM – This is going to be an interesting session considering my “history of hate” with Facebook Beacon, etc. Who knows? Maybe Beacon won’t even be mentioned. We’ll see.

The description of the session is as follows:

This session will present an overview of Facebook advertising and marketing solutions, including the Facebook Social Ads system and the Facebook application platform.

Uh huh. Watch it live as I live blog this session beginning around 10:30 AM Eastern time using CoveritLive.

A Manifesto for Mobile and Location Based Social Networks

Mobile is hot. Untethering from computers is the next generation of the web and I’ve said it for awhile.

FindWhere CEO Jaap Groot and my friend and DoC co-host Geoff Livingston have co-authored a white paper (they call it a manifesto) for mobile and location-based social networks outlining eight requirements for a successful mobile endeavor.

The true local, mobile and social breakthrough requires a completely converged product that will be so intuitive and robust that community members won’t have to wrestle with such a service. Instead, it will be so easy and fun, online community members will clamor to be a part of the craze. They will actively engage, and voluntarily spread the word about their experiences, in hopes that their friends will join them online. The winning service will be so compelling that it will be viral.

They go on to describe the eight factors:

  1. Provide a base offering free of charge. Today’s social network user does not tolerate paid-for services.
  2. Work on a wide selection of phones.
  3. Offer an intelligent, simple user interface for accessing information.
  4. Use GPS rather than force users to manually enter their location every time.
  5. Integrate intelligently into existing social networks rather than further inundate people with a new one.
  6. Allow users to share and use their location data in as many ways as possible.
  7. Enable individuals to set various levels of privacy control for personal security.
  8. Monetize in an intelligent, non-intrusive way

Some of these factors are implemented better than others and some are not technically possible with the mobile client and telcos the way they exist now. Things need to change within the four walls of the carriers.

Twitter Brightkite Facebook Mobile
Free Yes Yes Yes
Phone Support Yes Partial Some
Mobile/iPhone Interface Partial Yes Partial
GPS Compatible* No No No
Existing SocNet Integration Partial Yes No
Location Data easy for Users to Use Yes No Yes No
Privacy/Security Controls Yes Yes Yes
Low Impact Monetization No No Yes
*GPS is carrier-sketchy. Verizon Wireless, for instance, disables in phones

As with all white papers, it is a call to action. A spotlight on gaps in the industry. One day, all of these items will be inherent in the social offerings but it could take 5-10 years to see that occur.